Forest Brothers (Georgia)

Country: Georgia
Details of Formation: The Forest Brothers were established in 1993 as a guerilla movement after the Georgians fled Abkhazia. In 1998, links to the Georgian government are mentioned for the first time. The group existed from 1998-01-01 – 2004-01-25 and again from 2005-11-17
Details of Termination: When Saakashvili became President of Georgia on Jan. 25, 2005, leader Shengelia disbanded the Forest Brother. In agreement with the Interior Ministry the group lay down its arms on Februrary 11, 2004. Throughout 2004 and 2005 there are suggestions that the group was still active. On Nov. 17, 2005, a news source reported that the (new) leader of the Forest Brothers (and also leader of the White Legion), Samushia, announced the resumption of activities of the group.
Purpose: The Forest Brothers’ main purpose was to fight against Abkhaz separatism and to disturb Abkhaz authorities’ efforts to establish a de-facto regime (UCDP). The government seemed to align with the group to take advantage of its guerilla tactics and use of violence, as well as its presence in Abkhazia.
Organisation: The Forest Brothers, a group organized as guerilla movement and led by Dato Shengelia, who had been a member of the Mkhedrioni (UCDP), were under the direct control of Georgian Deputy Internal Affairs Minister David Gulua in 1998. They received financial support from the Interior and Security Ministries, and the chairman of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia. In 2002, they held a meeting with president Shevardnadze. From 2005 on, the group is led by Samushia, who is also the leader of the White Legion.
Weapons and Training: The Forest Brothers had bombs, mines, rockets and snipers, as well as a large number of small arms and light weapons, including Kalashnikovs, grenade launchers and machine guns (UCDP Forest Brothers and White Legion – Republic of Abkhazia).
Size: In 1998, a news source mentions that 700 fighters are officially registered, but suggests just 100 of them are active. In 2001, another source estimates that the core group has around 50 members, with additional fighters occasionally joining.
Reason for Membership: --
Treatment of Civilians: The Forest Brothers resisted the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in the Abkhazian region (Wikipedia). However, they also commit violence against civilians, including Russian peacekeeping forces and are held responsible for civilian deaths. Georgian police and authorities seem to ignore and silently approve of these actions. It had AK-74 and AKM assault rifles.
Other Information: The target category “international peacekeeping force” refers to Russian peacekeepers. The Forest Brothers were closely linked to the White Legion PGM. Members were mainly internally displaced ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia, many had formerly been members of the Mkhedroni (UCDP). The group existed from 1998-01-01 – 2004-01-25 and again from 2005-11-17
References: Wikipedia. “Forest Brothers (Georgia)”.

Uppsala Conflict Data Program. “Forest Brothers, White Legion.”

Uppsala Conflict Data Program. “Forest Brothers, White Legion – Republic of Abkhazia.”